A Stone, A Leaf, A Door
by Thomas Wolfe

…A stone, a leaf, an unfound door;
Of a stone, a leaf, a door.
And of all the forgotten faces.

Naked and alone we came into exile.
In her dark womb
We did not know our mother’s face;
From the prison of her flesh we have come
Into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison
Of this earth.

Which of us has known his brother?
Which of us has looked into his father’s heart?
Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent?
Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?

O waste of loss in the hot mazes, lost,
Among the bright stars
On this most weary unbright cinder, lost!
Remembering speechlessly
We seek the great forgotten language,
The lost lane-end into heaven,
A stone, a leaf, an unfound door.

Thomas Wolfe was a major American novelist of the early 20th century. Wolfe wrote four lengthy novels, plus many short stories, dramatic works and novel fragments. He is known for mixing highly original, poetic, rhapsodic, and impressionistic prose with autobiographical writing. (Bio courtesy of Wikipedia)

Editor’s Note: After spending a glorious Sunday in bed with Thomas Wolfe, (a day only rivaled in recent memory by the day spent in the bath with Rilke) I felt compelled to ask myself a couple of questions: Where can I get some friends, and what do I love more – fiction or poetry? The latter question led me to a little book of Thomas Wolfe’s prose, edited by John S. Barnes into lines of poetry, callled A Stone, A Leaf, A Door. The title poem is an excerpt from Wolfe’s first novel, Look Homeward, Angel. This prose into poetry distillation project couldn’t have found a better subject than Wolfe, whose novels are fat with words ripe for the plucking. Perhaps the 704 pages of You Can’t Go Home Again, published posthumously, display the author’s final attempt in locating “the great forgotten language, the lost lane-end into heaven.”

Want to read more by and about Thomas Wolfe?
Thomas Wolfe Society

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  1. Sivan says:

    What an interesting idea for a poem / book of poems! Some prose, to me, is so poetry rich and heavy it would be better if you broke it up like this. I.e. Cormac McCarthy. I would never have known from reading the poem from whence it came! Also I love your tongue-i-cheek about being in bed with Wolfe and in the bath with Rilke.

  2. Randy J. LaFollette says:

    I studied “Wolfe” extensively at East Tennessee State University. I was allowed into the “Library catacombs” to peek at “rare” books. I found a Poem entitled: “Confessio Amoris,” “(My Confession of Love). I made a copy, lost it in when moving. I wanted to call your attention to the finest, un-noticed writing I have ever seen. If you can locate it, I would be very pleased. So would you. – R.J. LaFollette

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